Educator Resources

The Zimmermann Telegram

Teaching Activities

Standards Correlations

This lesson correlates to the National History Standards.

  • Era 7-The Emergence of Modern America (1890 - 1930)
    • Standard 2B-Demonstrate understanding of the causes of World War I and why the United States intervened.

This lesson also correlates to the National Standards for Civics and Government.

  • Standard IV.A.2-Explain how nation-states interact with each other.

Cross-curricular Connections

Share this exercise with your history and mathematics colleagues.

Teaching Suggestions

  1. Decoding a Message: In this exercise, students decode a fictitious message using a simple substitution code. As homework, ask students to write a message using the code, and then exchange the messages for decoding.

  2. The Zimmermann telegram provides an opportunity to review geography with your students. Ask them to locate England, Germany, Mexico, and Japan on a world map or globe. Direct students to indicate on the map or globe the territory offered by the Germans to the Mexicans in the telegram. Ask them to calculate how much the territory offered to Mexico would increase the size of that country. What geographical advantages would the Germans gain by Mexican entry into the war? What was the role of Japan?

  3. Discussion questions:
    1. What other documents have changed the course of American history? For example, consider the effects of the Emancipation Proclamation, the Monroe Doctrine, and the DeLome Letter.

    2. What events in 1916 and 1917 contributed to the impact the Zimmermann telegram would have on the American public?

    3. Would the United States have remained neutral if the Zimmermann telegram had not been revealed?

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